The people of Mustang are Buddhists and nearly all the monasteries in the region are of the Sakyapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Other than the main temple in Lo Manthang and the monastery at Tsarang few of the religious establishments are particularly impressive or interesting. According to Tucci this is because so many were destroyed during the Tibet-Nepal war of 1856 and never really recovered their former glory. Nonetheless, Buddhism’s influence is apparent in the friendly, good-natured demeanor of the people. While at Ghami I wandered into the temple to find the monks assembled and doing their puja. Immediately the senior monk motioned another monk to find me a seat and as soon as I sat down a lady brought me fried bread and butter tea. While I appreciated this hospitality I was not looking forward to sitting through one of those endless Tibetan pujas, or having to drink cup after cup of butter tea. As it happens the puja only went for another 20 minuets and after the first tea they brought me tea with sugar in it rather than salt. As soon as the puja was finished I was invited to join the monks for a meal – rice, yogurt and what they called ‘grass’, some sort of vegetable. One of the younger monks spoke good English and explained to me what was going on and he in turn translated all the questions the other monks asked of me and my answers to them. Soon the subject got to robes and I showed them the Thai way of putting on a robe. They were both amused and impressed.
At Tsarang I was asked to briefly address the ‘morning parade’ of the novices. I noticed that they sung first the Tibetan national anthem, then a prayer to Chenrezi and then the Nepali national anthem. None of these people are refugees from Tibet and yet they apparently they identify themselves as much with Tibet as they do Nepal.
The most impressive temple I saw during the whole trip was the main one in Lo Munthang. The first time I went there the huge wooden doors were ajar and I walked in to the large pillared hall lit only by the sky light. There was no one around. Through the gloom I could just see the wall paintings and the wooden scaffolding built against the walls. The next day when I went there were people on the scaffolds absorbed in restoring the paintings which were all illuminated by large flood lights. Buddhas, bodhisattvas, various deities and mandalas and floral designs all made bright and alive by the lights, fully visible probably for the first time since they were painted. I just stood in the shadows and the silence and watched the restorers work. There is a documentary about the restoration of these paintings at
Note. Having got familiar with the standard way of blogging the whole system was suddenly changed about two months ago without notice and without guidance for how to use the new system, leaving me completely confused. I’m just a simple monk. Only yesterday I figured out how to enlarge pictures, hence their bigger format in this post. However, I still can’t get the pictures in the sequence I want. Be patient!